Minority Health Research

Welcome from chairs Melody Waller, PhD, MSN, RN, Assistant Professor & RN-BSN Option Coordinator, University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Miriam O. Ezenwa, PhD, RN, FAAN, Associate Professor, University of Florida, College of Nursing.

The mission of the Minority Health Research Interest and Implementation Group is to promote the health of minority individuals, groups, and communities through support, collaboration, and mentorship to minority health researchers.

We offer networking opportunities, peer support, and inspiration to others interested in this area of work and research. We encourage all members to participate. We welcome all interested parties in our area of work–researchers, clinicians, academicians, and students to our RIIG.

Our recent activities and/or current projects and/or opportunities include:


1. Annual Business Meeting

  • Evaluate needs of RIIG members. Plan for future conferences. Election of officers. RIIG presentations.

2. Student Poster Award and Eligibility Criteria

  • The purpose of this award is to recognize excellence in minority health nursing research and to reward the work performed by our student RIIG members.


  • Research demonstrates adherence to professional standards related to quality, rigor, and scholarship.
  • Research has the potential to significantly enhance minority health nursing knowledge and improve patient care outcomes.

Award Guidelines:

  • Be a student member of SNRS in good standing.
  • Be a member of the SNRS Minority Health RIIG.

Selection Procedure:

  • Posters are scored based on the following content: background, research question/hypothesis/specific aims, framework /theory, clear sample or population, clear subject selection, instruments, outcomes measured, results, discussion, aesthetics, and poster design.
  • Each item is rated on a scale: 0 (not present), 1 (poor), 2 (good), and 3 (excellent).
  • Winners are notified at the conference and receive a certificate and monetary award.

3. RIIG Sponsored Mentorship Forum

  • Senior faculty help guide PhD students and new/junior faculty members in various areas surrounding work/life balance and career/research trajectories.

4. Pre-Conference Workshops

  • RIIG member ideas welcome. The Program Committee will review proposals and make recommendations to the Board of Directors for approval.

5. Research Symposia

  • RIIG member ideas welcome. The symposia offering is competitively reviewed for selection for the Annual Conference program following the criteria listed in the general call for abstracts.

Melody N. Waller, PhD, MSN, RN
Assistant Professor & RN-BSN Option Coordinator
UTHSC College of Nursing
920 Madison Ave., Suite 1013, Memphis, TN 38163

Melody Norris Waller, PhD, MSN, RN, is an assistant professor and RN-to-BSN option coordinator in the College of Nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC). She joined the faculty of the College of Nursing as an instructor in 2009.

Dr. Waller’s teaching responsibilities include providing clinical and classroom instruction in the undergraduate and graduate nursing programs. She also serves as a faculty advisor for UTHSC nursing chapter of the university’s Black Student Association.

Her research efforts have been directed toward improving the sexual and reproductive health status of African-American women. She is the principal investigator on a project entitled, “Factors Associated with African American Women’s Sexual Health and Risk Behavior during Emerging Adulthood,” a study using a holistic approach to explore young African-American women’s sexual behavior and perceptions of sexual health. She has used mixed methods research designs to better understand women’s health behavior related to sexuality and overall sexual well-being.

Dr. Waller is a UTHSC College of Nursing Research Fellow and has received the Sigma Theta Tau Beta Theta-at-Large Chapter Research Grant. Her education targeted research efforts have focused on utilizing progressive education strategies in maternal child health nursing.

Her ultimate goal is to contribute toward the development of health promotion strategies and interventions to reduce African-American women’s sexual risk and yield sustainable behavior change. She is seeking to highlight pertinent emotional, relational, and sexual factors involved in women’s health and behavior while addressing issues related to individuals’ sexual climate and culture. Through ongoing research activity in the form of collaborative research projects and scholarly dissemination of their results, she hopes to integrate the broad approach of sexual health to improve disparate health outcomes.

In addition to serving as the SNRS Minority Health Research Interest Group chair, Dr. Waller is a proud member of several organizations, including the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric, and Neonatal Nurses and Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society. Her honors include the UTHSC Student Government Association Executive Council Excellence in Teaching Award in 2011 and 2013, and the Johnson & Johnson/American Association of Colleges of Nursing Minority Nurse Faculty Scholarship Award in 2013 and 2014.

Miriam O. Ezenwa, PhD, RN, FAAN
Associate Professor, Department of Biobehavioral Nursing Science, College Of Nursing, University of Florida
1225 Center Drive, PO BOX 100197, Gainesville, FL 32610-0197
Phone: 352-273-6344
E-mail: moezenwa@ufl.edu

Miriam O. Ezenwa is an Associate Professor at the University of Florida College of Nursing.

Dr. Ezenwa has contributed to teaching and learning of both undergraduate and graduate students through classroom and online instruction and one-on-one mentoring. Her teaching philosophy is based on the constructivist learning theory (CLT). The CLT states that, “teaching is based on the belief that learning occurs as learners are actively involved in a process of meaning and knowledge construction as opposed to passively receiving information.” In applying this philosophy to her teaching approach, Dr. Ezenwa’s goal as a teacher is to cultivate active and independent, yet collaborative learners who engage in exchange of diverse ideas. To this end, Dr. Ezenwa views her role as a facilitator as she involves students in their learning. She encourages students to view her not as an “all-knowing orator” but as one of the resources for their academic success. Dr. Ezenwa has achieved her teaching goal by teaching in core research courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Dr. Ezenwa’s research addresses health disparities in pain management in patients with sickle cell disease or cancer, which can cause frequent episodes of severe pain. Through her systemized program of research, she found that race, perceived discrimination, and hopelessness contributed to inadequate pain management in primary care. In order to highlight the role of other explanatory factors for disparities such as healthcare injustice, Dr. Ezenwa created the first and only Healthcare Justice Questionnaire©, which she adapted from the Organizational Justice Questionnaire. She has led translational research projects that use the latest computer technology to measure stress and pain, and she has successfully developed a guided relaxation intervention to reduce stress and pain in patients with sickle cell disease. Currently, she is collaborating with sickle cell experts in Ghana and Nigeria to develop a primary prevention intervention to combat sickle cell disease and the related pain complications. As evidence of her contributions to health disparities in pain management research, Dr. Ezenwa received three major research awards focused on research in: (i) diverse populations, (ii) pain and symptom management, and (iii) dissemination of a co-authored publication on pain and symptom management. Dr. Ezenwa was also a 2016 Scholar of the National Institute of Nursing Research Summer Genetics Institute, where she focused on understanding the psychosocial, genetics, and epigenetic aspects of sickle cell pain. In 2018, she was inducted as a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing.

Dr. Ezenwa is the co-Chair of the Minority Health Research Interest and Implementation Group (RIIG) of the Southern Nursing Research Society (SNRS). In addition to this role, she is a committee member of the SNRS Awards Committee and served as SNRS 2018 conference abstract reviewer. She is a peer reviewer for health disparities, cultural diversity, and pain management journals, journals with publications relevant to her research expertise. Dr. Ezenwa is a member of the American Pain Society, International Association for the Study of Pain, Sickle Cell Disease Association of America, Sigma Theta Tau International Nursing Honor Society, Golden Key International Honor Society, and the American Academy of Nursing.

Dr. Ezenwa received her BSN from Hunter College of the City University of New York, her MS and PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Nursing, and her Sickle Cell Scholar Fellowship from the National Institutes of Health/National Heart Lung & Blood Institute Basic and Translational Research Program at the University of Illinois at Chicago.